Finding answers to the world’s drinking water crisis

Without a doubt, water is the most abundant resource on Earth. After all, it covers over 70% of the planet – yet despite this we are facing a looming crisis as a species.

Climate change, global conflict and overpopulation are just some of the factors that are devastating the water supply in many areas around the world. It means that two billion people – one-quarter of the human population – are without access to safe drinking water.

As the world’s population creeps ever closer to eight billion, attention is being focused on developing technologies that can help address this before it is too late.

One of those offering a potential solution is Michael Mirilashvili, head of Watergen, an Israel-based firm that is using its air-to-water technology to deliver the drinking water to remote areas of the world hit by conflict or climate change.

‘Basic human right’

“Water is a basic human right, and yet millions don’t have access to it,” he tells the BBC.

Pulling water out of thin air may sound like science fiction, but the technology is actually simpler than it seems. The Earth’s atmosphere contains 13 billion tonnes of fresh water. Watergen’s machines work by filtering this water vapour out of the air. He says if used correctly, Watergen’s technology could spark a major shift within the water industry that could have a lasting impact on the planet.

“A big advantage of using atmospheric water is that there’s no need to build water transportation, so no worries about heavy metals in pipes for example or cleaning contaminated water from the ground or polluting the planet with plastic bottles.”

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One obvious obstacle would appear to be air pollution, which has become a widespread cause for concern in some of the world’s major cities. In the UK for example, research by Imperial College London found lead, which is toxic to the human body, still present in the city’s air in 2021 despite it being banned in 1999.

However, this may not matter. A study conducted by scientists from Israel’s Tel Aviv University found that even in urban areas such as Tel Aviv, it is possible to extract drinking water to a standard set by the World Health Organization. In other words, clean water can be converted from air that is dirty or polluted.

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